‘Titane’ Was Never Going to Be Nominated For an Oscar

My favorite film of 2021 was Julia Ducournau’s body-horror drama Titane about a young woman, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) with a titanium plate in her head who has sex with a car, goes on a murder spree, impersonates a missing boy to escape the police, and eventually gives birth to a titanium-plated baby.

Needless to say, Titane didn’t get any Oscar nominations. It’s interesting to consider why it’s needless to say, though. Titane was well-received and was the French entry for Best International Film. And yet, I would have been stunned if it received any recognition.

You can often tell just by reading a plot summary which films aren’t going to have a chance at an Oscar. That’s because Oscar films aren’t so much the best films as they are a genre of film. 

Titane is a helpful limit case to try to figure out what that genre looks like. In part that’s because it so obviously is not an Oscar film, but even more, because it is aware it isn’t. Titane deliberately plays with the fact that it is a hybrid, whose quality and humanity can’t be recognized by the usual juries.

All genres are fuzzy around the edges, and Oscar films are no exception. Still, you can make some generalizations. Oscar films are serious English language non-genre dramas with a humanist message of sorts and major directors and stars attached. 

Sometimes, as in 2019 with of Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, a film will triumph at the Oscars defying most or all of these expectations. But not often.